Uncle Leo after his eyebrows have been singed off in "The Package"
|First appearance||The Pony Remark (1991)|
|Last appearance||The Finale Part II (1998)|
|Created by||Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.|
|Portrayed by||Len Lesser|
|Family||Helen Seinfeld (sister)|
|Relatives||Jerry Seinfeld (nephew)|
Uncle Leo is a fictional character portrayed by Len Lesser in the American sitcom Seinfeld. Leo is the character Jerry Seinfeld's uncle. Uncle Leo made his debut in the second-season episode "The Pony Remark" and appeared in at least one episode in each of the additional seasons through the show's nine-season run.
On the 25th anniversary of the show's debut, Rolling Stone ranked Uncle Leo as No. 6 on its list of "100 Best Seinfeld Characters," behind only Newman at No. 5 and the four main characters: Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George.
Uncle Leo is the brother of Jerry's mother, Helen; his last name is never revealed. In an episode where Leo signs for a package addressed to Jerry, he actually signs it "Uncle Leo". In "The Bookstore", Jerry mentions "Leo" to Kramer. Kramer is initially confused, but upon remembering, he says, "Oh, yeah. Right. Uncle Leo. Forgot his first name."
Uncle Leo is very eccentric and a "general kvetch." When coming across Jerry, he always exclaims his catchphrase, "Jerry! Hello!" with his arms wide open. When Jerry has a Cape Fear-esque nightmare about him in "The Bookstore," Leo has the word "Jerry" tattooed on the fingers of his right hand and "Hello" on the fingers of his left.
When talking to people, Uncle Leo has a tendency to grab the person's arm (often uncomfortably) and hold them close. In "The Pony Remark," Jerry guesses that he does this "because so many people have left in the middle of his conversation."
Uncle Leo often brags about his son (Jerry's cousin Jeffrey, who never appears on the show) and his various accomplishments while working in the Parks Department. Leo is very sensitive about greetings; when Jerry once avoided stopping to talk to his uncle on the street (because Jerry was on his way to a meeting), Leo was offended and called Jerry's mother in Florida to complain about the snub.
Leo is retired. His wife, Stella, is seen in the third-season episode "The Pen," but by the seventh season he is either widowed or divorced. In "The Shower Head", he is living with a woman named Lydia. He breaks up with her because Jerry joked on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno about Leo's paranoid obsession with anti-semitism in ridiculous contexts, such as claiming that a cook is anti-semitic for overcooking his hamburger. Lydia found Jerry's comments funny, so Uncle Leo accused her of being an anti-semite as well. He resumes the relationship later on in the episode, although neither Stella nor Lydia is mentioned in subsequent episodes.
In "The Bookstore," Jerry catches Uncle Leo in the act of shoplifting at a local bookstore, thereafter confronting him about it. Leo maintains that seniors have the upper hand since they can claim senility ("Come on! I'm an old man. I'm confused! I thought I paid for it. What’s my name? Will you take me home?”); he also reminds Jerry to always greet him "Hello" no matter how awkward the situation. Jerry later unintentionally gets Leo arrested by "bookstore police" after Leo attempts yet another theft. During this episode, we learn that Uncle Leo has a criminal record related to a "crime of passion."
In "The Package," Leo receives a package for Jerry. Jerry is suspicious, thinking the package could contain a bomb, so he encourages Leo to open the package. This happens over the phone, and Jerry hears a loud explosion once Leo agrees to open the box. Except for having his eyebrows and moustache burnt off, Leo is unharmed. Elaine later quickly draws new eyebrows on him with her eyeliner, leaving him with a comical expression of anger.
"He's the kind of guy who is a total nuisance at times and the kind of guy you avoid. He's a very expansive character, and that has an attraction to it," Lesser said of the character in 1998.
Len Lesser, who portrayed Uncle Leo, exhibited some of the same character traits, especially the overly excited greeting manners, when he later portrayed the character Garvin he portrayed from 1996-2004 on Everybody Loves Raymond.
Lesser died in 2011. His role as Uncle Leo was remembered as an "iconic" and "scene-stealing" character. Despite his persona as a complaining braggart, Uncle Leo "still managed to be loveable".
The Uncle Leo character appears in a total of 15 episodes from 1991 to 1998.
- Season Two
- Season Three
- "The Pen"
- Season Four
- Season Five
- Season Six
- Season Seven
- Season Eight
- Season Nine
- "From Soup Nazis to Nuts: 100 Best 'Seinfeld' Characters". Rolling Stone. July 9, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (February 17, 2011). "Uncle Leo Dies". People. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
- Roberts, Soraya (February 17, 2011). "Len Lesser, Uncle Leo actor, was 'one of our favorites,' says Jerry Seinfeld". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
- O'Neal, Sean (February 17, 2011). "R.I.P. Len Lesser, Seinfeld's Uncle Leo". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
- "PASSINGS: Len Lesser, Sidney Harth, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Santi Santamaria, T.P. McKenna, Howard Lucraft". Los Angeles Times. February 17, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- "'Seinfeld' actor Len Lesser dies; played Uncle Leo". USA Today. Associated Press. February 17, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- "Uncle Leo's 'Seinfeld' Scenes: Jerry Remembers His Favorite". Huffington Post. February 17, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2015.